Microsoft names Windows Server 2012, commits to launch this year

Drops 'Windows Server 8' placeholder, offers System Center 2012 management suite

Microsoft today gave its newest server software a name -- Windows Server 2012 -- and said it would release the operating system this year.

During the opening keynote at the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2012 in Las Vegas, which runs through Friday, company officials slapped the name on the new software -- which previously had been dubbed Windows Server 8 -- and announced it would ship before the end of the year.

Neither was a surprise, as Microsoft traditionally tags its server-side software with a date designation -- unlike its client software -- and experts expected that the operating system would launch alongside Windows 8 for Intel-based desktops and laptops.

While Microsoft has not laid out a release schedule for the next iteration of Windows, most anticipate it will mimic that of Windows 7, which launched in October 2009, in time to make the holiday sales season.

Windows Server 2008 R2, the server edition that corresponded to Windows 7, went on sale at the same time as Windows 7, although the company began rolling it out to volume license customers in August 2009.

At MMS today, Brad Anderson, the Microsoft executive who heads the company's management and security division, said that Windows Server 2012 would reach customers this year.

Windows Server 2012 is available now in beta -- it has been since March 1, the day after Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview -- but the company did not detail additional dates today, such as targets for "release candidate," or RC, or "release to manufacturing" (RTM), when the software is finished and ready to hand off for duplication and distribution to system makers.

If Microsoft follows the schedule it used for Windows Server 2008 R2, it will call RTM for Windows Server 2012 in late July.

Also today, Microsoft launched System Center 2012, a suite of client and server management tools. That software can be downloaded from Microsoft's website.

Microsoft is pitching System Center 2012 as key to enterprises building private clouds composed of physical and virtual servers.

Yesterday, Microsoft made it official for other names as well when it said "Windows 8" was the title of the OS for Intel-based client PCs and "Windows RT" was replacing the earlier "Windows on ARM," or WOA, label for the tablet-centric edition the company hopes can compete with Android and iOS.

Windows 8 will be sold -- and pre-loaded on new Intel PCs -- in only two editions, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, while a third version, Windows 8 Enterprise, will be offered to volume customers that subscribe to the Software Assurance upgrade program.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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